The Ultimate Guide to Mac Backup 2020-06-19T07:59:07+00:00

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The Ultimate Guide to Mac Backup

Articles • June 18, 2020

“We should treat personal electronic data with the same care and respect as weapons-grade plutonium – it is dangerous, long-lasting and once it has leaked there’s no getting it back.” – Cory Doctorow

Before we talk about Mac data backup, let’s have a word on Data Security and Apple.

Devices from Apple are famous for the data security they offer. With the introduction of T2 chips, Apple has emphasized this even further.

According to Apple, these T2 chips can offer 256-bit encryption to your SSD. But, to borrow Apple’s own words, “it also means that if the portion of the T2 chip containing your encryption keys becomes damaged, you might need to restore the content of your drive from a backup.”

So, Apple itself warns us about the possibility of data loss.

Now, you’re right: Apple devices don’t get corruption issues as often as Windows or Linux devices do. That’s one benefit of being in a closed ecosystem.

This, however, does not mean that you are safe from issues like power surge, hardware failure, display defects, and other software issues. That is, at any point in time, you may end up losing all your relevant data. And, starting again is not an option for everyone.

This is also why keeping a backup of your Mac makes a lot of sense!

What is a backup?

A backup is a copy of files on your device, stored in a more organized manner. Furthermore, you can quickly restore backups in the event of data loss, device corruption, or a voluntary factory reset.

In the simplest way possible, data backups provide peace of mind. That is, even if you lose all your data due to unforeseen events and circumstances, you still have a way-out.

Let me paint a realistic picture for you.

A few weeks back, my MacBook Pro faced an issue with the display panel. When I visited the Apple support center, they asked me to submit the device for inspection and repair. They also warned me that they might have to factory-reset the device as a part of the review.

Since I regularly take backups of my system, I was not scared by the second statement. But I’m sure that is not the case for many people. What we are trying to say is this: you cannot even foresee when you have to format your Mac.

So, a backup is the only shot you have at uninterrupted work.

Why take backups aka backup myths debunked

Apart from the fact that they are essential?

  • Mac backups are easy

Unlike the popular belief, backups are quite straightforward, especially on Mac. Taking a backup of your Mac is a task that takes just a few minutes. You don’t have to be a Pro or macOS expert to do this. Nevertheless, you should have the right Mac backup tool at your disposal.

  • Mac backups are not expensive

Many believe that taking a system backup is an expensive affair. That’s not entirely true. There are options to back up your Mac without spending a single penny. However, we always recommend keeping your data in an external drive, which costs a bit.

  • Backups on Mac are flexible

People say backups are tough, because they don’t understand the various types of backup options out there. The collection is so rich that you can choose based on the backup type, source, destination, and your budget. For instance, you can have online incremental backups or a one-time local backup.

These are plenty of reasons to take a backup of your Mac if you have not so far.

Types of Backups: Based on Destination

Depending on where you are storing the backup files, we can categorize macOS backups.

  • Local Backup

Local backups refer to backup documents that are stored on local devices like external hard drives. When it comes to Mac, you can even save the backup to a single USB drive. These backups are readily available for restoring without an internet connection. If you are using an external HDD, you’d need some cables, though.

On the bright side, you don’t need an internet connection, and this process is cheap. Even if you are buying a portable SSD, you can spend way less than $100. The problem is that it’s still hardware. Just like your Mac, the external drive may also crash.

There are so many options within local backups. We will discuss them later.

  • Cloud Backup

As you can guess, these backups get stored in cloud storage spaces, which offer reliability and speed. While you don’t have to worry about cables, physical issues, and corruption, an internet connection is a necessity. You also have to pay a considerable amount of money as the subscription fee.

On the bright side, you can access the backup from almost any device. Suppose you are traveling, and your Mac decided to give up. Even in the event where you purchase a new device, you can restore all the backed-up info from the cloud.

The catch here is that you may pay anywhere from $50 to $1000 per year for these services.

  • Cloud Sync

Cloud Sync is similar to cloud backup from many aspects, but there are some differences. Once set up, the cloud sync service will synchronize your Mac files with a web server. You can access these files from devices connected to the same account.

This is what you get through services like iCloud, Dropbox, and Google Drive. On the positive side, you may not have to spend money. The problem is that you will have to download files and folders to the new device individually.

In the free cloud sync services, you usually have limits. Upgrading to premium plans is an expensive affair.

Types of backups: based on backup pattern

Depending on the level of control and convenience, you can choose from these options.

  • Full backup

This type of backup backs up everything on your computer, from documents to downloads and from apps to media files. If you have 80GB of data on your Mac, the size of the backup would also be 80GB. As you can guess, this type of backup takes a considerable amount of time and space.

Full Backups are great when you take backups less frequently.

  • Incremental backup

As the name says, the changes in data will become part of the data. For instance, let’s consider a scenario where you take a full backup on Sunday. Now, when you enable incremental backup, the changes made on Sunday will become a part of Monday’s incremental backup.

Incremental Backups are great when your file storage undergoes constant change.

  • Continuous backup

Continuous backup can save all the essential information from your Mac to another space while keeping all the changes. When you have enabled, the backup process happens automatically. That is, almost as soon as you make changes, they are updated on the backup files.

Continuous backup offers some of the most convenient options there.

  • Bootable Clone

Bootable clone is almost like a full backup, but it’s a bit more expansive. When you create a bootable clone, you will be copying the entire hard drive of the Mac, including the OS. Because it’s bootable, you can use the drive to boot macOS and access your files/apps.

This is an excellent option if you are planning to get your Mac repaired/replaced.

You have to choose the right type of backups from the above mentioned options. Some of the backup options are advanced, and only professional scenarios would require them.

How to take local backups on Mac

Even when we narrow things down to local backup, you have so many options. Now, we will have a look at some of the most popular, reliable, and reasonable ways to create a local backup on Mac.

#1 Time Machine backups

Time Machine is the official backup software of macOS, built into the Operating System. You may have seen the Time Machine restore option while setting up your Mac for the first time. So, as it stands, Time Machine is the most native, affordable, and easy-to-use way to back up your Mac.

Time Machine can create full backups of your Mac in an effective manner. Whenever you connect the device to the Mac, it will back up local snapshots and other changes. On any day, you can get hourly backups for up to 24 hours, daily backups for up to a month, and weekly backups for up to several months.

Requirements: the only thing you need for a Time Machine backup is an external drive. This can be an HDD, SSD, or even a USB drive. Just keep in mind that Time Machine will erase the device and convert it into AFPS, Apple’s file system.

Process: Once you have connected the external drive, you can go to System Preferences and choose Time Machine from the menu. From the list, you have to select the external drive. Soon, after formatting the disk (if needed), Time Machine would start backing up your Mac. You can see real-time progress too.

Pros

  • Time Machine is completely free to use
  • You can explore previous versions of your disk
  • External drives are quite inexpensive
  • No monthly subscription fee/one-time payment
  • Best performance

Cons

  • Works with only local storage options
  • External drives are also vulnerable to physical damage
  • Disrupts existing files as drives need to be formatted

Time Machine comes built into macOS.

#2 Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) is a professional-grade backup software for Mac. This tool allows you to create multiple types of backups and clones of your Mac hard drive. You should consider this backup suite if you need extra control over the backup process.

As you can guess, Carbon Copy Cloner supports a variety of backup modes, including full backups and partial backups. You can also create bootable backups, which are very useful in the long-term scenario. It also brings Snapshot features that you see in Time Machine.

Requirements: You can use practically any drive as the source/destination of the backup process. Unlike the Time Machine scenario, Carbon Copy Cloner does not erase or repartition the destination drive. So, you can have backups without disrupting existing content.

Process: Thanks to the simple UI, using Carbon Copy Cloner to back up content from Mac is an easy task. As you can see, you can choose the source and destination drives from the given menu, along with what you’d like to copy. There is also an option to schedule the copying process.

Pros

  • Advanced control over the backup process
  • It can create bootable macOS backups as well
  • Does not disrupt existing content, including backups
  • Scheduling options are available
  • Works with network-based drives
  • Snapshot View is available

Cons

  • Carbon Copy Cloner is premium
  • Requires some experience to master the UI
  • Limited to offline destinations/sources

Carbon Copy Cloner costs $39.99, but you can get a free trial for 30 days.

#3 SuperDuper

SuperDuper is an easy-to-use Mac backup and data recovery software. Compared to Time Machine, you get more features and control over the process. At the same time, the tool comes with a UI that is simpler than that of CCC.

Just like we did in CCC, you can control what you copy to the destination drive as well. There are options for a full backup, partial backup, and even bootable backup drives. The best part? SuperDuper works without an external drive as well.

Requirements: As we said, you don’t need any specific storage drive to use with SuperDuper. The software works magically when it comes to data backup. However, we recommend having a compatible drive so that you can use all the smart features.

Process: Using SuperDuper to back up your Mac device is an easy task. Using the drop-down menu on the main interface, you can choose both the target and destination drives. The app would tell you what happens even before you press the button

Pros

  • Simple, easy-to-use UI
  • Advanced backup control
  • Supports bootable drives
  • You can back up to non-external devices
  • Advanced scheduling options
  • Affordable pricing

Cons

  • Does not have backup management options
  • Snapshot feature is limited
  • Not suitable for advanced/network-level controls

SuperDuper is a paid tool, and it is available for $27.95.

How to take cloud backups on Mac

Given below are the tools/platforms you can use to save a cloud backup. In this case, though, you don’t need an external drive. However, a reliable and robust internet connection is necessary.

#1 Carbonite

Carbonite is probably the most user-friendly solution to create and manage cloud backups of your Mac. This subscription-based service presents an easy way to keep your entire Mac secure while offering features like encryption, remote file access, and even external drive support.

You need to understand that Carbonite does not offer complete backup. For instance, files bigger than 4GB won’t be uploaded automatically. However, restoring the data is an easy task. You can either download the data or even get the Hard Drive shipped to your address.

The problem with Carbonite and other cloud backup solutions is the price. In addition to the noticeably high subscription fee, you also have to bear the internet charges. You may have to pay extra for hard drive delivery features as well.

Carbonite is available for a monthly subscription starting at $6.00 when billed annually. But you also have to note that it has certain limitations. If you are looking for advanced control over the backup process and data, you may need something else.

#2 Backblaze

Backblaze is an affordable and lightweight cloud backup solution for macOS. The service is available for a low price of $60 per year, making it the most popular. What’s better, you ask? Backblaze provides unlimited storage on that plan.

As a Mac application, Backblaze provides near-native performance as well. More importantly, it does not put much strain on the resource consumption part. That is, you can keep using Backblaze even if you have multiple apps running.

Because there is no storage space limit, you can quickly deal with all sorts of your backup. Another advantage is that Backblaze can back up files of any size, unlike Carbonite, which has a 4GB limit. Blackblaze also offers several other features like worldwide hard drive delivery.

As we said, Backblaze for Mac is available for an affordable price of $60 per year. This amount is way lower when compared to the features and convenience you get. Unlimited storage and control make it a superb tool for everyone.

So, both these tools are dedicated cloud backup solutions for Mac. They don’t provide syncing-based features, which can be a let-down. This is why we have to consider cloud syncing solutions, as well.

How to enable cloud sync on Mac?

Now, we will have a look at a few options you have at enabling Cloud Sync on macOS. As we said, these are not complete backup solutions. However, if you badly want to skip paying for backup solutions, you can have a look here.

#1 iCloud

iCloud is the recommended (by Apple) cloud sync and backup solution for macOS and iOS devices. Because it’s a service from Apple, you get some advantages too. For instance, files you sync will be available on other Apple devices connected to your iCloud account.

More importantly, you can access all your files from any device, using the web-based interface. Also, since iCloud is built into macOS and Apple products, you can enjoy the best transfer speeds, upwards, and downwards. You also have an option to import all your data while setting up a Mac.

The problem is this. The free version of iCloud comes with only 5GB of storage. Upgrading to a premium plan can be an expensive affair for some. But you will have to pay one way or the other, you know.

#2 Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive

We know these are different services with different storage space options. However, generally, they work in the same way. That is, you have to set up a synchronization client on your Mac, and you can select which files will be available on the cloud.

Now, this isn’t the most convenient option for most people. Add to that the fact that most of these services have limits like 10GB and 15GB. Also, there is the problem of restoring. All you can do is download all those files individually.

Therefore, we won’t recommend any of these free platforms as a professional Mac backup solution. If you’re that hesitant to pay, though, you don’t have many options.

Note: Some smart backup management tools let you get the best of both worlds. That is, you can store your backups in cloud-based spaces like Amazon Cloud and Google Cloud. You should consider these tools if you are looking for advanced security and privacy.

The bottom line

We hope we could answer almost all the doubts you have about backups on Mac. Talking about our favorite option, we prefer going for a combination of iCloud and local backup. Earlier, we were using Time Machine, but we have also upgraded to some advanced software for the same purpose. At the end of the day, it is all about your convenience and all.

If you are asking for an honest opinion, you should be ready to pay for macOS data backup options. Spending some money as a subscription fee/one-time purchase is way better than losing all your data due to a system crash or other issues. And, regret is going to weigh more than the happiness you have by skipping $5 or $10 per month.